Few Wall Street denizens were laughing during the 2008 financial crisis, but if someone had said the head of Citigroup's Alternative Investments unit would be Treasury Secretary in five years "the line would have brought the house down," a Wall Street Journal editorial quips today. Jack Lew's CAI was infamous for hiding risky mortgage vehicles outside of Citi's balance sheet, and was full of collapsing hedge funds, all under the auspices of perhaps America's most troubled too-big-to-fail bank.
Lew's defenders say the damage was done before his 2008 takeover. But "taxpayers who ended up underwriting his seven-figure compensation might want to know what exactly he was doing to clean it up." Lew's backers also absolve him of guilt for his tenure atop Citi's Global Wealth Management Division, which sold toxic mortgage assets to clients. But again, no one can say what Lew did to improve matters. "There was a time," the Journal quips, "when you had to be successful on Wall Street to become secretary of the Treasury." Click for the Journal's full editorial.